The Betterific Blog

Connecting consumers with brands to crowdsource and innovate on product ideas.


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Interview with an Innovator: Dennis G Pitcock

Today, we welcome Dennis Pitcock to the innovator’s circle.  Dennis has been the runners up a number of times and recently won one of our Private Innovation Challenges around energy bars.  Congrats!  Dennis is not just an ideator and a brainstormer, but he’s an entrepreneur.  It’s no wonder he continually ranks at the top of our crowdsourcing competitions.  He’s also got a killer beard and great taste in t-shirts.  See below to learn more about his startup, his hopes for Betterific and some inspiration when it comes to brainstorming on Betterific.  We’ve really taken a liking to the Google Talk he references below on creativity – thanks for the tip.

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Micha: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Dennis G. Pitcock: Teaching myself how to code and build a startup called Jauntify. Betterific is a great way to take a break from it all and keep my mind fresh.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. DGP: I love to travel but hate spending too little time at one place. I like to stay somewhere for at least a month, and really get to know the people and culture, and feel like a local.

MW: What books do you recommend on ideation, creativity or innovation? DGP: I really want to read David Burkus “The Myths of Creativity”. I watched his Google Talk on Youtube and he was great. Perhaps I’ll use this giftcard to finally get it.

MW: What BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  DGP: Already there with a super eary stage startup that is transitioning from the project phase to a business phase. We, at Jauntify, are trying to make it easier for you to find and compare things to do before you travel. We’re up and running for the Philadelphia area now, and can’t wait to grow and really take on this challenge

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  Any good techniques you want to share? DGP: I read the challenge 2 or 3 times to make sure I didn’t miss something which could easily be done in all the new-challenge-excitement. Also, being the first person lay down the good idea really gives you an advantage. I believe good ideas come to anyone, so you have to get yours up fast.

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community? DGP: I like how people add comment on ideas. This challenge was excelllent in getting the community engaged. I try to comment often and hope others are motivated to comment more too. Everyone has their good ideas, but by bouncing these ideas off like minded people is what makes them become great.

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform? DGP: I’d try to make it more collaborative than competitive, motivating people to work together to beat the challenge. I feel like the competitiveness is hindering the innovation potential. It seems as if (especially on the earlier challenges), some members were hesitant to upvote or comment on competing ideas, which might win. The lesser the upvotes, the lesser visibility an idea could get, and the lesser the comments, the less an idea could be refined. There most likely is the perfect blend of competition and collaboration that applies to each challenge. I remember the first time I played the ‘Pandemic’ board game, where we all had to work together. It was fun and it would be great to see this kind of collaboration taking on innovation too.

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Interview with an Innovator: Luc Michaud

Betterific members are a diverse crowd – gender, age, location and occupation…  We like to maintain this diversity to allow for cross pollination.  One of our core beliefs is that great ideas come from people with different perspectives, outlooks and specialties.  Which is why crowdsourcing is so critical.

Luc Michaud brings a unique voice as a pharmacist.  He’s won a number of innovation competitions and won the grand prize of the Singularity Civic Engagement Innovation Challenge.   His approach to the innovation challenges is very methodical and we’re glad that he gave us a window into his systematic process – he goes through a litany of questions to see how to make the product simpler, more social, more fun… See below for the full list.  He’s also got great ideas on how to improve Betterific – and his desire for “private challenges” was just realized in our Name that Nutrition Bar private challenge.

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MW: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Luc Michaud (LM): I work as a full-time pharmacist, I like to spend time with family (I’m married and have 2 teenage girls and one beagle), reading, and writing my first book.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. LM: I am a part-time minister

MW: What books do you recommend on ideation, creativity or innovation? LM: Cracking Creativity: The secrets of creative genius by Michael Michalko

MW: What BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  LM: I have this idea for a phone case that would make your phone able to take pictures while the phone is horizontal. Sometimes, you don’t want to make it obvious that you’re taking a picture.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  LM: I look at what we value most and brainstorm as to how to improve these different aspects with this challenge:
How could we save money?
How could we save time?
How could we decrease hassle?
How could we make this more social?
How could we make it more fun?
How could we make it more aesthetically pleasing?
How could we make it more environmentally friendly?
How could we make it more family-friendly?

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? LM:  I like the Betterific challenge because it helps me focus on how to improve one specific product.  I like being part of a group that values creativity. Creativity is so important and I love reading how others were able to think outside the box.

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform? LM:
– I would make it easier to read the different ideas posted. I would have an “editor’s choice” for the week as to what ideas were the best according to the Betterific team. I would also give the ability to subscribe to certain topics that we’re particularly interested in. The tags are good, but sometimes too narrow.
– I really like the challenges, but I would also like to see some collaboration. Why not put both of those together? How about a national competition where different teams would compete against each other?
– It would be good to have one Betterific Challenge every week. What if the weeks that there are no sponsors, non-profits would be allowed to post a challenge and the prize for these would be bragging rights?
– Allow private (by invitation only) Betterific challenges? Some sponsors would rather keep the ideas confidential to protect the idea
– Create an app or website or game to get children involved with Betterific. Kids are the most creative!
I guess I’s need more than one day as CEO to implement all these!


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Interview with an Innovator: Kathleen Russell

In this installment of Interview with an Innovator, we hear from Kathleen Russell.  Kathy is in the insurance space and holds a dual degree in Mathematics and Business.  She won the Lipstick Innovation Competition with a  couple of really cool ideas around lipstick strips and a “smart lipstick.”  She’s participated in numerous crowdsourcing innovation competitions, so it’s not surprising that her suggestion for Betterific is for the platform to host weekly “lightning” challenges.  Great idea. We’re always looking for ways to “flex your idea muscle” and I think that would be a great way to help people practice.  We’re going to look into it!

Read on for Kathy’s brainstorming tips and where she goes for inspiration.

MW: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific?  Kathleen Russell (KR): I enjoy spending time with family and friends and trips to Las Vegas.

MW: What blogs do you recommend on ideation, creativity or innovation?  KR: I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog, it’s a free daily email from author Seth Godin.

MW: Do you have a startup/business on the side you want to tell us about?  KR: My Hubby is working on a couple of products to take to market. I can’t say what they are right now, but look forward to sharing them once their live!

3bcaebbMW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  KR: I believe in intersectionality, so I try to think about other, similar but different industries and products to gain inspiration from what is available there.  The question then becomes, how can we take what we’ve learned from other successful innovations and bring it to this specific industry.

MW: Do you have any tricks for breaking through a creative block?  KR: I get a group of trusted family or friends together and toss out ideas, literally starting with crazy silly ideas, then hone in towards the problem you are solving.  It’s a brainstorm, but in a safe space, so you don’t feel the pressure of groupthink.  It also helps to have people who aren’t close to the problem or familiar with the typical boundaries or barriers.

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community?  KR: I love reading other people’s ideas and having a place to go where it’s positive. The best part right now, is no one talks about the election!

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform?  KR: Send a daily email with a small challenge and a link to log your ideas. Kind of like a daily lightening round.


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Interview with Innovator Meia Geddes

Meia Geddes.jpgThe first innovation competition we ever ran was with a startup looking to get into the travel space.  We had built Betterific as a site for ideas and wanted to test this new concept – of hosting crowdsourced idea competitions.  It was a gamble – how would our community react?  Would brands be “wow”ed by our community members’ ideas?  Lots of questions.  And with any startup, the best way to answer the questions is to test the hypothesis.  The rest is history, as Betterific has blossomed into the premier innovation competition site.

Meia Geddes, a member from those early days, posted some tremendous ideas throughout the challenge and won our very first competition!  She followed that performance up by doing the unthinkable …winning the very next challenge.  Meia still holds the record as our site’s only back-to-back winner.  If you look through Meia’s catalog, you’ll see her unique approach and ability to generate both creative “organic” and competition-driven ideas.  She’s also proposed a great concept that we’re looking into – of enabling members to turn their Betterific profiles into a resume complement for jobs.  Learn more about Meia below – she’s an author, loves to read, and sits still when she brainstorms!

MW: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Meia Geddes (MG): I write, attend Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (i.e. library school), work part-time at MIT Sloan School of Management, make paper cranes for my small business, Make-A-Crane, and pursue my latest endeavors in publishing. I spend a lot of time reading and too much time emailing, tweeting, and eating anything sweet.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. MG: I decided to become a vegetarian when I was ten because it began to dawn on me that there was some connection between the sweet clucking creature and the delectable skin and meat on my plate. Also, a family friend mentioned the golden rule to me, which I had never heard of and which led me to very seriously consider the fact that I would not want to be eaten… People also tend to be interested to learn I was adopted by my mom from China.

MW: What books do you recommend on ideation, creativity or innovation? MG: Lately I’ve been avoiding social science-y books, but I love Maria Popova’s BrainPickings newsletter, which often references books on creativity. She has an intuition for the kind of “interestingness” that is universal and I think she’s really influencing our culture and world in a positive way. She highlights artists, writers, thinkers, and has a way of pointing out the connections between everyone.

meia, pat, and chickens in caMW: Betterific members are ideas people!  Do you have a startup/business on the side you want to tell us about? MG: Yes! I recently established an imprint, Poetose Press, to publish my own work and possibly others one day. Just as with librarianship and journalism, the traditional model of publishing (querying literary agents, getting editors’ interest, signing a possibly dubious contract) is rapidly changing with technology (i.e. print-on-demand). I’ve found it really great to have full entrepreneurial and creative control, from getting ISBNs and a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) to hiring an editor and artist. It’s been fun researching industry standards to ensure I go about things professionally, as any small press or big publishing house should. The official publication date for my first book, Love Letters to the World, is October 1, 2016.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  Any good techniques you want to share? MG: I often type out ideas ahead of time to refine them. I always try to look at the previous ideas so I’m not posting duplicates and can ponder what may not yet have been covered. I often think about how things can be related to books since that seems to be my shtick. I put myself in my own shoes and think about what I would want! I think a lot about ways people can be brought together to connect. I tend to go to the website of the company if I’m not very familiar with them, like Reddi-wip and Sterilite. I also sit very still.

MW: How do you get ‘in the zone’ so you can think about the problem deeply? MG: Part of writing is making connections between seemingly disparate things, and I’ve found that’s also key to coming up with betterifs. You start to intentionally think randomly and not-so-randomly. You think PLANES and PERSON WITH COOL SOCKS YOU ONCE SAT NEXT TO  and CHESS and wonder why Southwest isn’t offering fliers the opportunity to sit with other people who are also into chess (or are wearing cool socks). I think that would be even more popular than the 2,000 bedtime books Virgin Atlantic just bought to give out to fliers.

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community? MG: I love that Betterific gives me the platform to put my ideas out into the world since I probably won’t have the time or energy to pursue most of them and a lot of the ideas are specific to companies and their current offerings. I don’t feel a sense of proprietorship over ideas. Just as with writing, execution is key. It’s also of course really fun seeing all the creativity that others have, and refining ideas together.

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform? MG: The site is lovely and very clean as it is. I think there used to be something that showed the total upvotes plus total downvotes so it’d be interesting to see that instead of only being able to see the net votes. It’d be great to collocate the same ideas via controlled vocabulary, though that seems like it’d be difficult to address, similar to what librarians face in cataloging or the chaos on LibraryThing. It could be fun and useful for members to be able to create a non-traditional Betterif resume featuring their ideas. Maybe more college campus and international recruiting? I’d love to see even more people and companies using the site!


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Brainstorming with innovator Laurie Steiner

In this installment of brainstorming with an innovator, we invite Laurie Steiner, who won our wireless innovation competition.  I love doing these series, because we get to learn more about our members – what gets them going, why they do what they do, and how they come up with such creative ideas.  Laurie is not just a great ideator, but an amazing human being who gives so much of herself.  She has helped raise over 60 kids!  We need more Lauries in the world.

See below to learn more about Laurie’s fascinating good deeds and how ADDHD is the secret sauce to her brainstorming.  Maybe we should market Betterific to ADDHD communities!

IMG_0906MW: What do you do when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Laurie Steiner (LS): Now that I’m retired I have more time for hobbies and personal fun. I watch my grand kids a few days a week. I love to read, crochet, go camping, fishing and crabbing, I enjoy ghost hunting with a local group. Spending time with friends and family always makes me happy as well!

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. LS: I was a foster parent for many years and helped raise over 60 kids. My rewards are the ones who stayed in my life and I was even blessed with a few of their kids who call me “grandma”. 🙂

MW: Betterific members are ideas people!  What BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  LS: We always said we should start a business…think telephone booths where you insert a dollar or two, put on goggles and get sprayed with sunscreen..These could be located at the beach or lake.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge?  Any good techniques you want to share? LS: First, I let all of the obvious ideas pass out of my brain! Then I think of the “problem” and imagine myself in the situation. What experiences have I had personally? I sometimes wonder if I have ADHD….ideas and thoughts come to me all of the time and my mind is always “on”.  While others may shake their head when I go from subject to subject..for me it is a gift because I do have a great imagination and original  ideas…I just have to get them in order sometimes!

MW: How do you get ‘in the zone’ so you can think about the problem deeply? LS: I don’t always tackle the issue all at once. I carry it around with me and think about it as I go about other things. Sometimes trying to come up with an instant answer will just give you ideas that already exist and you want to think of things that could make the product or idea stick out to the public as unique to the product itself.  That is what will sell it.

MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community? LS: I love ideas. I love reading OTHER people’s ideas. It is a fun place to be, no negativity there! I obviously love winning prizes as well, but what in interesting way to try to do so.

MW: If you were CEO for a day, what would you improve about the platform? LS: Well, I would love more feedback on where these ideas go…if you ever try to pitch them to sellers and what the responses are.  I also think you should ask participants to share your site. Most would be happy to since it’s not all about winning,  it’s about sharing thoughts and impressions! My advice would be: while it’s great to keep growing and improving,  don’t be too anxious to change a good thing!

To participate in our crowdsourced idea generation competitions, please sign up for our site!  If you’re a brand and want to run an innovation challenge, please check out our enterprise site.


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Brainstorming with Innovator Thomas Williams

In today’s installment of “Brainstorming with Innovator” we invite one of our most prolific and active members, Thomas Williams.  Tom has been a member of the site for at least a year and since joining he has been a phenomenal source of innovation and a deep well of ideas. He has made a name for himself on the platform and is part of a unique and dynamic duo – his wife, Kelly Williams is just as creative and innovative.  As a member of Betterific myself, it’s fun to see how they bounce ideas off each other and build upon each other’s ideas.  Tom recently won the grand prize for the ibeer challenge.

Read on below to learn more about how Tom comes up with his ideas, the process he uses to brainstorm on Betterific, and why he continues to participate in our innovation and idea generation competitions.  Interestingly, Tom suggests that we run a Betterific challenge on Betterific, which is a great idea.  Well, Tom, you’ve got it.  When we launch our new site, we’ll kick it off with a meta-Betterific challenge!

Grill pictureMW: What do you when you’re not brainstorming on Betterific? Thomas Williams (TW): I work in the communications industry, I design networks and sell the components that make up the networks. I make computers talk to each other. I have always been a bit of a nerd and enjoy the tec
hnical aspects of computers and networking.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. TW:  I am a navy veteran who likes to eat.  I am married to a fantastic cook who makes the best hamburgers (my favorite food), I like to bake cakes, and used to love to Disco Dance .

MW: Betterific members are ideas people!  If you’re open to it, what BIG idea are you thinking about/sitting on?  TW: I am constantly thinking of new ideas for computer networking, how to solve everyday problems people might have with their own networks at home or in the office.

MW: When you get an invitation to join a Betterific innovation challenge, how do you approach the challenge? TW: I try to brainstorm everything I can think of that could possibly be a match for what they are looking for. I check my ideas against ideas that have been posted, then I use a simple Google search to make sure it is original.  Then I talk to my wife Kelly, and bounce the idea off of her for confirmation that image1the idea is not totally pathetic. I have also spent the time to draw out a really good idea and present the drawing with the idea as backup .

 MW: Where do your “good ideas come from?” TW: My best ideas come as sparks.  They come from personal experiences and needs, and just smack me upside the head, a ohh wow moment.

 MW: What have you enjoyed most about the Betterific platform? And what do you like most about the community?  TW: It is fun coming up with and sharing the ideas on a social platform where you get feedback on your ideas. Helping others to possibly fine tune their betterif. The interaction with other members is a great part of Betterific. Also seeing some really great ideas from others and then actually seeing some of those ideas come to market like the ones from the Target Back to School Challenge.

MW: If you were CEO of Betterific for a day, what would you improve about the platform? TW: The first thing I would do is start a new challenge! A Betterific challenge for Betterific, getting all the members input as to how to improve it. Second I would allow more characters to be included to describe a betterif. Possibly allow the attachment of a file or .dwg to better convey your idea. Finally I would implement a marketing program to get better branding and visibility for Betterific. More people need to know about the platform and get involved!

To participate in our crowdsourced idea generation challenges, please sign up for our site!  If you’re a brand and want to run an innovation challenge, please check out our enterprise site.


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Brainstorming with an expert, Matt Nelson

In this installment of “Brainstorming with an [innovation] expert” we invite Matt Nelson from Hyundai.  Matt has quite the resume and an amazing story.  He just finished up his role as the Innovation and Technology Planner at Hyundai and is now returning to the University of Michigan to get his masters in Design Science.  He’s also extremely involved in the community – focusing his efforts on paving a path for Black Engineers as the National Chairperson for the National Society of Black Engineers.  Working with Matt it feels like he has 30 hours in his day.

nsbe-newswallIn the interview below, you’ll get a tremendous window into the world of innovation and product development.  In Matt’s explanation of “how an idea becomes a product” you’ll notice that idea generation is the fourth stage of the process.  And then he breaks down the ultimate questions that must be answered before developing the product: Do customers want the product, can we make it, should we make, and how do we make it.  Because Betterific and our members focus exclusively on the idea generation and concept validation phase, it’s great to get some context and understand the greater picture.  Matt’s perspective is bolstered by his work in innovation, his work with IDEO, and his life experiences – we’re thankful he shared his insights.

MW: Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t know from your resume. Matt Nelson (MN): I dropped out of college in 2005 and spent several years driving trucks across the country. In 2010 my wife and I moved to England, where I coached American Football for Southampton Solent University and DJ’ed across Western Europe. (See more about Matt’s story: “No Fear, No Regrets“)Matt-Nelson-300x232

MW: Where do you look for inspiration MN: As a technology scout, I am always looking for the latest advances in technology. I read a ton of whitepapers from research institutions (Michigan, Stanford, MIT, etc.). I also read biographies to gain insight into the decision-making approach around new products and methods.

MW: Where do you think good ideas come from? MN: Good ideas come from people motivated to change the conditions (good or bad) of themselves or others.

MW: Do you believe in/use a specific product development/innovation process? MN: I believe that any methodology has to be designed to fit the culture and capability of the company. For example, HATCI uses a version of DesignThinker similar to IDEO, but because we don’t have a large pool of extreme and analogous users to pull from, our process shrinks from three months to a few days. Every company I’ve seen use DesignThinker creates their own “special sauce”, from the naming of the process phases to the helper terms that aid in brainstorming.

MW: Walk us through “how an idea becomes a product.”   MN: It truly depends on the
company (size, culture, structure, etc.), but in general the following steps occur, not in any particular order

  • Problem/Opportunity Identification
  • Information Gathering/Observations
  • Problem Restatement
  • Idea Generation
  • Prototyping
  • Consumer Validation (Do customers want it)
  • Feasibility Study (Can we make it)
  • Business Case (Should we make it)
  • Process Development (How do we make it)

From there, Marketing works its magic on developing advertising campaigns, pricing and distribution channels. Manufacturing will decide on tooling (if needed) and machinery. Purchasing will source suppliers for parts, suppliers and anything else required in support of the project.  Betterific Idea Generation provides an additional voice in the room when developing ideas which will ultimately need to be refined into final concepts.

NEB_Matthew_NelsonMW: What impressed you most about the Betterific member base of creatives? MN: The responsiveness of members when asked probing questions about their initial Betterifs.

MW: In 5 years, what will be radically different about the auto industry and what might remain the same? MN: Low fuel prices have driven recent truck demand. A greater adoption of turbochargers have made today’s trucks as fuel efficient as some cars, so I don’t expect a heavy shift back to cars when oil prices increase. At the same time, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) increases are around the corner, so I see automakers providing drastic incentives on smaller cars to increase CAFE numbers. This will allow them to continue selling highly profitable trucks, but those trucks will increasingly have four and six cylinder engines.

The foray of tech companies into the auto industry will have significant implications for OEMS. Running a company like Ford or GM requires a significant level of capital expenditure, expertise and labor costs that tech companies traditionally attempt to avoid. I foresee more partnerships than new ventures from companies like Apple.

Want to join the Betterific community and participate in innovation challenges? Head on over to http://www.betterific.com to join.  If you’re interested in running an innovation competition, check out innovation.betterific.com